I remember when I learned what it means to be a real woman.
The first time was my freshman year of high school while I was sitting at the lunch table with a new group of friends. I tried so hard to be cool, but somehow the jokes began to focus on me. Suddenly a popular kid stared me down and announced to everyone, "She needs to use Schick razors for women on her face." Everyone laughed; I ran to the bathroom crying. That's right, I had a mustache. But real women aren't hairy.
Then it was my junior year at a new school. It was right before English class when I learned that guys like women who wax down there. I remember feeling terrified that I'd never get married unless I got a Brazilian wax. That sounded painful! But a real woman does what her man wants.
I had a huge crush on a guy who happened to be in love with my best friend. When I asked him why he wasn't interested in me, he said, "You seem too innocent." Real women put out.
I took a pastoral counseling class in college and was one of three women on the male-dominated roster. On the first day of class, a classmate sat down next to me and asked, "So, tell me the truth. Why are you here? Just to better yourself, right?" He couldn't believe I wanted to go into full-time ministry because real women aren't ambitious.
From childhood, we're bombarded with messages of what it means to be a real woman. We're told to be nice, to look pretty, to defer authority, to shuck power, and on and on.
It's no wonder so many of us feel like frauds.
From the beginning, Satan has convinced us of things that aren't true. He has fed us messages that are the opposite of what God intends. It took a while for me to realize that I had fallen into the same, familiar trap: I believed a lie.
God made women in his image, which means we reflect his tenderness and strength, his gentleness and power, his love and tenacity, his beauty and boldness, and his mercy and truth. What does it mean to be a real woman? A real woman is a created woman.
In Genesis, woman is called a helper, or ezer. Every other time the word ezer is used in the Old Testament is when it's describing God as a helper to his people. A real woman is a mighty help to those in need.
Judges 4 tells us about a cunning woman named Jael rammed a tent peg through the skull of a man who had ruthlessly oppressed God's people for many years. Real women are heroes.
In John 8, Jesus defends a woman who was caught sleeping around. The maddening crowd is out for blood, but he still thinks she's worth it. Real women make mistakes.
God promised the Israelites a special land to call their home, but there were a few obstacles, like the fact that the land was already occupied by their enemies. A couple Israelite spies went to scout the area but were soon in danger. That's when a prostitute named Rahab hid the men and helped them escape. Real women take risks.
There is no shortage of stories about real women in the bible. God knew we would need to be reminded of what's true: Any woman is real woman because she is loved by God. We don't have to feel like frauds anymore! So, let's show up in every way we know how, with every gift we've been given, and in every season we find ourselves.
How are you a real woman?